Michael Mosley undergoes a battery of screening and scanning for Horizon’s Are Health Tests Really a Good Idea? Here he gives Radio Times his verdict on the pros and cons of five big health tests…
BLOOD PRESSURE TEST
Available on NHS
The case for: It is the single most important test you can have. The big question is what you, as an individual, do about the results.
And against: Nothing
CT HEART SCAN
Private cost between £600 and £1,000
For: Broadly speaking, it’s a good thing, but the NHS won’t do it on demand — only if your doctor thinks there’s a significant risk. It will look at your heart and vessels and tell you what state they’re in.
Against: The scan will almost certainly find something, but will that represent a significant risk? If you’re told it doesn’t, how do you deal with that knowledge. Will you worry, unnecessarily, about it?
PSA PROSTATE TEST
Available on the NHS
For: If you have prostate-related problems or a family history, then it’s a useful test to have, but I think there should be a specific reason for seeking one.
Against: The drawback is what happened to my dad. [Mosely’s father died 12 years ago, aged 74, two years after invasive surgery for prostate cancer left him impotent and incontinent. It’s possible the treatment slowed or delayed the disease, but it may have been slow growing and never have interfered in his life.] We are waiting for a better test and until we get that, universal screening is not a good idea.
BOWEL SCOPE SCREENING
Soon to be available on the NHS to men and women aged 55 (a trial is already available to those aged 60 in Scotland)
For: If they find a polyp they can deal with it very quickly. This seems to be one of the more useful tests to have.
Against: Nothing at all
A saliva-based test available privately at a cost of around £125
For: You might find you are a carrier of a disease, which might inform whether you have children or screening for children.
Against: It’s predictive, not conclusive, and what do you do with the information? Would I recommend it to members of my family? The answer would be probably not.
Horizon: Are Health Tests Really A Good Idea? is on Wednesday 12th August on BBC2 at 8.00pm